International conference promotes dialogue between bishops and Indigenous Catholics

An International Conference on Catholic Indigenous Ministry was held recently in Washington, DC, bringing together Catholic bishops and Indigenous representatives from Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and Canada. (Submitted photo)

By Maribel Mayorga, CCCB Communications

Representatives from Catholic Indigenous organizations came together with Catholic bishops from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States for an International Conference on Catholic Indigenous Ministry (ICCI) held Sept. 19-21 in Washington, DC.

The gathering was deemed an historic milestone, advancing dialogue, learning, and fellowship among pastoral agents working with Indigenous-Catholic communities.

Hosted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on Native American Affairs, the purpose of the gathering was to share experiences, ideas, resources, and best practices encountered in the relationship between the Catholic Church and Indigenous communities.

Canadian delegates were CCCB representatives Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton and Bishop Mark Hagemoen of Saskatoon, and Indigenous representatives Rosella Kinoshameg of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, Ojibway/Odawa, Giselle Marion of Tłı̨chǫ First Nation, Behchokǫ̀, NWT, and Graydon Nicholas of Welastoqiyik, Neqotkok.

“It was an honor to be here together along with the other representatives from the Native and Indigenous communities,” said Graydon Nicholas, a Wolastoquey Elder, former Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick, and member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Circle.

“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to share on the common themes that were identified, on matters of great interest, and on the hopes and challenges which we experience in our respective countries. We would like to thank the organizing committee for the years of careful preparation that have gone into making this Conference a reality,” Nicholas said.

“The meeting was an insightful sharing of ideas, experiences, and challenges for healing and reconciliation in reference to our four Church assemblies,” said CCCB delegate Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Roman Catholic Saskatoon. “It was the beginning of what we all hope will be a developing discussion – sharing histories, challenges, and pathways of healing and hope. It was inspiring to be present for such sharing.”

The gathering added an international component to the wider and comprehensive synodal approach that the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church is taking to reinvigorate ministry with various ethnic and cultural communities.

Included as a key part of the meeting agenda was a listening session for the bishops with representatives from Catholic Indigenous organizations, with the intent that it will help charter a path for ministry to Indigenous Peoples at the international level. The topics of discussion emphasized the importance of being both Catholic and Indigenous, and included evangelization, education, reconciliation, healing, inculturation, as well as reflection on social concerns such as poverty, racism, and the environment.

“This conference provided an opportunity for all participants to dialogue, which has fostered a better understanding of the relationship between the Church and Indigenous peoples,” said CCCB delegate Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton. “My hope is that the conversations we had during this meeting can bring us closer together towards a path of dialogue and reconciliation. It was another opportunity to hear directly from the Indigenous peoples of Canada and other countries. This event was a reminder to walk together with our Indigenous peoples on the path to healing towards a future full of hope.”

The Canadian delegation to the International Conference on Catholic Indigenous Ministry. (Submitted photo)